What to Bring
Megan Bendson carefully cuts a kingpost with her Stihl 261 preparatory to installing ridgelog, July, 2011.
Revised July 14, 2016. Changes are in red print. This list is updated periodically. Please call 218.365.2126 or email email@example.com if you have questions or problems – or if you have any difficulty contacting vendors. Although the safety gear list is fairly rigid, the tool list is somewhat flexible and negotiable, depending on your financial circumstances and whether you are arriving by motor vehicle or airline.
Special note: Since some of these tools have only a single source,
it is not recommended that students cast a wide net online for tools looking for just the best price. This is sometimes a recipe for bringing the worst stuff.
Common errors are bringing the wrong scriber, chisels, safety shirt, sander-backer, and chainsaw chain – all of which can result in wasted time on the course securing the correct items. If you’re unsure about anything, Ron is available to offer suggestions or answer questions anytime by phone or email.
||Tamarack Log Building Tools 763.783.9773, no website but can get print catalog by phoning. Takes time.
||Schroeder Log Home Supply 800.359.6614, www.loghelp.com
||Log Home Store 800.827.1688, www.loghomestore.com
|Timber Tools/Buffalo Forge 800.350.8176, the best drawknife and some fine chisels and slicks. www.timbertools.com. They are exhibitors at our annual International Log Builders Association conferences, and they make some fine tools (and sheaths)Any hardware store.(K) Kingsbridge Supply. http://www.kingsbridgesupply.com. General log building and logging tools. The sole source for handlebar gouges.
Magard Tools, Prince George, BC 250.962.9057. Full line of log and timber frame tools, including Chambers and old Mackie scribers.www.logbuildingtools.ca/
* Please pay attention to the listed sources for these very specialized tools. Some have only one source.
Note: If you need your tools fast because a course is imminent, your best bet may be Kingsbridge. If you want the Gransfors axe (the best one), try Piragis Northwoods Co. in Ely, MN. Best boots are LaBonneville.
Log Building Tools (required for most attendees). Items with an asterisk (*) at the end are required, even if you’re coming by airline. There is an appendix at the end of this page showing images of some of the tools by their number.
- Wood chisel. Two Cherries brand 20 mm with #3 curve. T S K*
- Mortise or framing chisel. 1, 1 1/4, or 2 inch. T S L K or TT. *Make your own mallet on the course from white birch.
- Drawknife. The best available is the 9″ (or 12″) drawknife from Timber Tools/Buffalo Forge at $155. 1.800.350.8176 orwww.timbertools.com. TT. Please do not bring “Dixie” or Peavey drawknives to the course, but there are many other kinds that could serve you well. And although Dixie and Peavey make useless drawknives, their loghooks, peaveys and canthooks are very high quality. Ask Ron if you have questions about this apparent contradiction.
- Log cleats, 2 sets or pairs – one pair consists of two cleats on a 30″ rope. Get only from Tamarack or Kingsbridge. Log dogs, 1 pr. T. * Get these also from T or K. Larger kinds are not as useful for the logs we use.
- Peavey or Canthook (either will do). “Peavey” brand is superior. T K You will eventually have both for your own projects.
- Log scriber. 9-inch Ely scriber from T or K is best. * Do not get the 12″ Ely scriber. Other brands, including the Robert Chambers scriber and the Veritas, are also good.
- Indelible pencils. 1 dozen Veritas, and 6 lumber crayons, red or blue. T S K * Red indelibles seem to run badly when wet and should be avoided.
- Axe. Scandinavian Forest axe by Gransfors-Bruks. T * if you want the World’s best axe . Other small axes may do, but please do not bring a hatchet for log work. Because they are a one-handed tool, Ron considers them unsafe.
- Measuring tapes. 25-50 foot. Also small pocket tape (e.g., 10′, 12′) with both metric & English (if possible) TH *
- Flat Mill Bastard File and flat sharpening stone. TSLH *
- Chalkline with black chalk, and a hank (roll) of mason’s line with line level. TSLHK
- Any empty spray bottle (under your sink) for enhancing scribe pencil lines. H
- Small torpedo level. H A regular 24″ level is also necessary. An Empire 24″ level (#450-24 Speed Level) with graduations in English and metric and one flat edge is the best ever for truss building and other uses. Not made anymore but occasionally available on Amazon & EBay for around $20.
- 4-5 inch angle-grinder with rubber/plastic sanding backer and #24 or #36 grit discs. H * Be certain that the rubber or plastic backer fits your machine. Try putting it on at the store. Many students come with an incorrect backer, in which case the sander is not useful. The best and safest angle-grinder I’ve found is a Paddle-Switch Makita, Model 955-7PB
- Heavy 100 foot extension cord – 12 gauge is best (14 is ok). H *
- Architect’s triangular 1′ ruler and an 8 1/2 by 11″ pad of 1/4″ graph paper for a possible exercise on making house plans or trusses – about $15.00 total at any art, drafting or stationery supply store. (#16 is purely optional, but you will use them at some point – definitely on your own projects, perhaps along with Google Sketchup.)
About your chainsaw
- Chainsaw and accompanying tools: * scrench (screwdriver-wrench combo), files, 2 old toothbrushes for cleaning. Saw should have 16 or 18″ bar with.325 pitch. Chain must be chipper or semi-chisel with rounded profile and should be an official green-linked safety chain, which Stihl terms “guard-link semi-chisel green chain.” Saw must also have the mechanical chainbrake as well as the invisible inertial chainbrake (all of the recommended saws below have this). Bring 2 or more gallons of ethanol-free (known as “unoxygenated” in Minnesota), 91 octane gas, mixing oil for 2 1/2 gallons of gas, 1 gallon bar oil, and your owners’ manual. Also extra clutch-cover nuts and a spark plug.
- Stihl, Jonsereds, and Husqvarna, brands are recommended. Arborist saws are neither useful nor allowed for log construction. For safety reasons, your saw should be no more than 15 years old, i.e., post 2000. Possibly thebest saw for this course and your future log building – in terms of reliability, safety, noise, vibration reduction, parts/service availability, general usefulness and long life – is the Stihl MS261, which is a medium sized professional-level saw. If you have access to a spare qualifying saw in case you have problems, by all means bring it along. Unless you are uninterested in future service to your saw, stay clear of Menards, Home Depot, Lowes, and such. Purchase your saw from a bona fide chainsaw dealer in your home area (or locally at Joe’s Marine in Ely 218.365.6264). If you contact them in advance with your information. Ron can fetch it for you prior to the course). For safety, noise, and reliability reasons, McCulloch, Homelite, Remington, Craftsman, and Poulan are not allowed at the school.
- Very, very important. Please make it a point to bring the correct saw chain. About 25 percent of students bring the wrong chain and have to waste a good part of a class day going to town seeking the specified chain. If you or your saw dealer are confused, please have them phone me for clarification. The chain specs for the Stihl ms261 are: Stihl 23RM3 – Rapid-Micro Safety chain for .325 pitch.
Log Building Tools – optional, but recommended if you are arriving by motor vehicle, have room, and can afford them. Otherwise, you’ll likely acquire them in the future when you set to work on your log projects, e.g. eventually you will get both a peavey and canthook for your own building.
- Tool box or pail with toolbucket attachment. H
- Timber carrier TSL (strongly recommended) Peavey brand is best.
- Claw hammer H
- Framing square H
- Handlebar gouge K– a big favorite & only one current source, Kingsbridge, 952.913.3762. $125. plus MN sales tax. Comes with a nice sheath.
- Curved adz with 18 inch handle. T or K have the only useful kind, do not bring others if you can help it.
- Old axe or splitting maul for firewood. H
- Picaroon (hookaroon) T H K
Safety Apparel (required)
- Hardhat preferably with eye and ear protection. T S K or any saw dealer. Warm liner for October November, March, or April courses.
- Leather gloves for all tool use and sharpening. Four pairs. The best we’ve found are at Menards Inc. (Eau Claire, WI & regionally, sold only in fall and winter, SKU# 660-1322 – about $6 a pair and even washable. Year-around gloves! Also get a pair of heavy rubber-coated canvas gloves for wet weather and for applying mildewcide to logs. H
- First aid kit T H
- Safety glasses or the face screen above. H. Disposable dust masks. H
- Chainsaw-protective chaps or safety pants. T, L, K or saw dealer.
- Chainsaw-protective steel-toed Kevlar-lined boots. Steel-toes barely protect 1/6 of the foot from an axe or chainsaw, so the boots must be chainsaw-resistant and Kevlar-lined as well as having a steel-toe. Husqvarna or Labonville are recommended, either rubber or leather. Labonville
- (www.Labonville.com) has extremely comfortable US made logging boots known as BOOTLAB9 KEVLAR SAFETY BOX TOE. Ser. no. is 24127 or 24128 (high or low heel). Husqvarna rubber or leather Kevlar-lined boots from a dealer are also acceptable. Ben Meadows Co. 800.241.6401 has the rubber type for around $100. The Log Home Store also has good rubber protective boots for $90+ Do not bring calked (spiked) boots to the course.
- Chainsaw-protective shirt. Special item developed in the 1990s by Ron in collaboration with Swedish Gransfors-Bruks Co. to provide arm, shoulder, and frontal trunk protection specifically for Great Lakes School courses. Washable blue denim. Available only at T L K Caution: do not buy Stihl’s orange shirt. It is not protective of anything. After making sure it fits, wash your Gransfors-Bruks chainsaw shirt twice (for extra comfort) prior to the course.
- Kneepads. Any kind. H. Not required but easy on the knees for kneeling on scaffold or ground.
Reminder: shorts, leggings, or athletic/sweat pants are prohibited on all log building and stonework courses.
Suggested Textbooks for the Course – nine works that are a must for a serious log-builder’s library.
Robert Chambers, Log Construction Manual (2011 edition only)
Vic Janzen, Your Log House, 4th edition,
Allan Mackie, The Owner-Built Log House,
Dan Milne, Handbook of Canadian Log Building,
Allan Mackie, Notches of All Kinds, Log Span Tables, Log House Plans
Tom Walker’s, Building the Alaska Log Home. (Note: Mackie’s “Notches” is out of print and hard to locate, but there seem to be many in existence.)
And one more to purchase: the International Log Builders Association’s
Effective Practices and Methods for Handcrafted Log Building, (amply illustrated in color, 71 pages). The ILBA website: www.logassociation.org will show you how to purchase it through Amazon for less than $30. We will be referencing this document repeatedly during the courses. Ron was on the committee of builders who debated the issues and wrote this several years ago.
Required Personal Gear (strongly suggested items)
- Raincoat or rainsuit. Long raincoats or ponchos are unsafe.
- Old clothes. Bring plenty. Insulated coveralls are good for early spring or late fall. Denim jeans or Carhartt double-knee pants are good for any seasons. Long underwear is in fashion here Sept. to May. Athletic/sweat- pants, leggings, sweatpants, tights or shorts are not allowed on the worksite.
- Leather gloves must be worn when using all tools except the scriber. Bring four pair of insulated work gloves for cold-weather courses. A pair of rubberized work gloves are required for all log and stone courses.
- Soap, towels (extra for sauna), toothbrush.
- One headlamp (that will fit over cap or hardhat) and two flashlights, supply of batteries.
- Strike-on-box matches. Farmer matches (independently struck on any surface) are not allowed for safety reasons.
- Box of large plastic bags for garbage.
- Scrub pads (4-5) and paper towel rolls (8) for drying dishes.
- Food. Easy-to-prepare items are best. Nothing for which a regular oven is needed, since there aren’t any. Microwaves are provided. Outdoor barbecues are for evening use only. Bring charcoal if you plan to use.
- Dishware utensils, and pots & pans are furnished if you are lodging in the cabins. Paper plates, bowls and cups are still handy, however. If you are tenting, bring your own cookware and dishware. In any case, a good, durable, insulated coffee cup is handy. The cabin cups are not for using out on the worksite.
- Toilet paper. 4 rolls.
- Alarm clock. Windup or battery. Lectures are scheduled for specific times, so don’t leave your watch at home.
- Pocket knife for sharpening pencils.
- Notebooks and pens. Carry them with you all of the time. Good notes, sketches and photos will be invaluable later when you begin your log buildings.
- Camera with extra cards & battery charger. Throwaway cameras work well also. Taking of videos is very distracting to the class and not encouraged.
- Sleeping bag, blankets (bring extras), pillow. Mattresses are provided on the beds.
- Supplementary cooler for extra beverages. Refrigerators are small and intended mainly for food, juice & milk. Ice and groceries are available in Ely and Two Harbors.
- Do not bring any type of space heater – electric or propane. Simply not allowed on the premises!
- There are no tools or safety gear for sale at the school or in nearby towns. If it is more convenient for you to ship items to and from the school, or have a tool source ship directly to the school before the course, that’s ok. However,UPS and FedEX are the only carriers that come here daily and with any degree of promptness. Please do not use US Post Office for any parcels coming here before, during, or after the course. Post Office cannot deliver packages in this remote location, but other carriers can and will.
- Note that there is no landline telephone service here for student use. If you wish to stay in touch, bring your cellular phone and charger. All cabins have electricity. AT&T is the most reliable cellular carrier. You may, of course, leave the school number and email with relatives, so that, in case of emergency, they will be able to leave a message. If you have wireless capability on your laptop computer, we have a free wireless internet hotspot available for use.
- If you have difficulty with your chainsaw dealer in regard to correct chain, pitch and files, have them call Ron for clarification. A tiny minority of dealers (like some loggers) have a contrarian attitude about safety stuff, and some aren’t aware of the special cutting needs of log builders. For safety and easier learning, it is extremely important to have the correct kind of chain, as outlined in the tool list.
- Take another look at the tool and safety gear lists. Most of the tools in the first list and all of the safety gear are required of nearly everyone. Things that are best not shared with a partner are scriber, axe, all safety gear, drawknife, and the Two-Cherries chisel. Sharing a saw with a partner works out sometimes. That, of course, is up to you. Neither a chainsaw nor a sander-grinder can be used by anyone under the age of 18.
- The Camp Rules, which you have received a copy of, spells out things that are not allowed here, such as drinking any alcohol before or during working hours, on field trips, or while driving or riding in a vehicle anywhere. And the whole place and field-trip sites are smoke-free, except within your vehicle in the parking lot. Be sure to check this information over, along with the Safety Rules for the Worksite. Firearms of any sort are prohibited on the school property or in your vehicle. No “carry” or firearm possession permits of any kind or from any state are valid here.
Appendix – some of the tools on the lists above pictured according to their numbers
1. Two Cherries curved chisel
2. Mortise/framing chisel
3. Drawknives: Gransfors-Bruks & Barr (or Timber Tools)
4. Log cleats log dogs
5. Canthook Peavey
6. Ely Scriber
8. Gransfors-Bruks Scandinavian forest axe
9. Logger tape & carpenter’s tape
10. Curved stone/flat mill bastard file/flat stone
11. Chalkline & chalk bottle Hank (roll) of dry line
13. Empire 2′ level & small torpedo level
14. 4-5 inch sander-grinder
Optional tool list:
1. Tool pail
2. Timber carrier/lifting tongs
4. Framing square
5. Handlebar gouge
Great Lakes School of Log Building
1350 Snowshoe Trail, Isabella, MN 55607